Special Report: Transit

Why Punish Monthly HSR Pass Holders?

With the dramatic hikes to monthly transit passes, it may be cheaper simply to buy tickets.

By Thom Oommen
Published January 18, 2008

Having just purchased my monthly bus pass for $79 in the dark of winter, I could be excused for feeling down. After all, last year at this time my pass cost me $65.

This means that in the span of one year, adult transit pass holders have seen a jump of 21 percent through two fare hikes. Student pass holders (which in most cases means hard working parents) got a bigger hit of 26 percent. Compare these jumps with those for cash fares (14 percent) and tickets (9 percent) and the message is loud and clear: don't buy monthly passes.

Think about it. If you use the bus to commute to and from work Monday to Friday and there are roughly 21 weekdays a month, you're looking at a cost of $77.70 to go by ticket or $79 to go by pass.

Even though the difference is small, which are you going to choose? What if you work at home one day a week? What if you have to drive occasionally, get a ride home sometimes, or wish to use your bike on pleasant days? All the more reason to pick up tickets and dump the pass.

Doesn't it make more sense to have a monthly pass that costs around $70 (or ideally less), which would become the logical first choice for daily commuters deciding between tickets and passes?

With a pass in their pockets, these regulars would have the option to choose the HSR instead of their cars on weekends and evenings instead of spending a ticket or cash fare. It's there, so why not use it?

Wouldn't that lead to fewer vehicles on the road? Wouldn't that lead to less air pollution, greenhouse gas and fuel consumption?

Wouldn't that help the City of Hamilton reach its goal of doubling annual transit rides per capita from the current rate of 47, as stated in the Transportation Master Plan?

Though I hold out hope for Sam Merulla's dream of free transit, with any future fare hikes the cash fares and tickets should go up but monthly passes should come down. A healthy system needs regular, committed riders.

I hope the HSR and Public Works are listening, because this is an example of a small change that will make a big difference to boosting ridership on the HSR.

Thom Oommen is passionate about building truly sustainable communities. But far from technological solutions and other flights of fancy, he believes that the only way to build a just and ecologically responsible community is to embrace frugality and simplicity. He is currently focusing on actively learning the skills that will enable him and his community to face an unknown future with a measure of confidence. Check out his blog.

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By Gump (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 13:26:00

Exactly the predicament I find myself in! I work shifts, ride my bike when the weather cooperates, and occasionally get a ride home from a coworker. I presently have a pass, but come renewal time, I'm sure the numbers won't justify the cost. What a shame, with the pass in the pocket, it DOES encourage you to choose public transit for extra curricular activities. So much for the city's "hidden" agenda.....seems obvious to me.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 14:17:51

HSR's pricing structure is somewhat inane not only as far as odd cash fares requiring four coins but also the lack of monthly pass incentive as indicated above.

An issue I still want to press here is that McMaster Students still receive a STEEP discount and receive a vast majority of service. I can understand making transit affordable for students however the one-sidedness of this is almost insulting. Especially given the huge investment in 10 Beeline and 51 University service that directly benefits students. Despite the fact that they are not paying a full fare as residents and students of other schools do.

The best argument I've heard from my many estemed McMaster friends is that the bus is still packed. To which I reply "well maybne you should pay for it?". Imagine the service improvements that students and Hamiltonians in general would see if we all paid at least somewhat evenly in to the public transit system! Tim Hortons still charges Seniors full price for coffee despite their limited incomes (and usually no parents) so why does the HSR discount a prime demograph like McMaster students? Baffling.

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By w willy (registered) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 15:03:55

If you looked at total cash transferred by Mac students to HSR, versus number of students using their student pass, is there really a deep discount overall? Sure, for the students who use it, it is a real laugher. But if you got rid of the programme, chances are HSR would come out behind as they would lose all that revenue, and not get anywhere near the same ridership in return. If anything, having a big chunk of reliable revenue and ridership allows HSR some opportunity to innovate and try new things.

I agree that the jump in pass prices is too much too soon. On the other hand, the decision not to up the ticket fares too much had something to do with growing awareness of poverty in this city, and the manner in which mobility through the HSR can make a real difference for poor people. Why are we setting transit rider against transit rider, rather than returning to the idiocy of area rating transit.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 15:21:32

w willy: Have you ever rode the 5, 1A or 10 bus? Packed and all students during class hours. And those fancy Dave Kuruc designed Hybrid Nova Busses on the Beeline? All for McMaster. Which would be AOK if they were paying full price to ride the bus.

They're paying $67.50 a school year costing other riders $520.00 per student who rides the bus. What the heck is that?!? There is NO municipality in Canada that subsidizes students transit use like that. Generally those transit systems that make a student rate available make it universal to all students attending school in the city.

I call shenanigans. This is another case of Hamilton not respecting itself enough to operate like a real city. Let's teach students that in the real world things cost money. Going to school like going to work is a dent in your pocket. If riding the bus is too cost prohibitive walk, bike or car-pool. The west end is a lovely place to cycle, I spent my whole childhood crusing Main St. West.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 15:49:14

Yes but Mac students don't have a choice BUT to buy this pass, there is no opt out. For all the Mac students that rarely use a bus contribute money which subsidizes the other students. Anyways, even with not all Mac students using their passes, the buses are still packed not because of the passes, but because Mac is very dense in employment and population, and has a high percentage of transit dependent people. Unless we get real transit (not buses) transit to Mac is a joke.

Besides, what about all those buses that run to Ancaster, Heritage Green, and along stone church that outside of rush hour, have 2 people on them.

Isn't everybody subsidzing them as much or even more than they suposedly subsidizing the Mac Students?

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By balance (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 16:16:10

I can't comment on the Mac issue, but Thom's central argument is bang on. Off the top of my head, I would think that the price of a monthly transit pass should reflect the cost of, oh, 17 return trips using tickets. That way I'd have a clear incentive to purchase a pass.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 16:22:45

Al Rathbone: So people are densely employed at McMaster? Making money? And they aren't paying for the bus? I'm still trying to figure out how giving away transit passes at firesale prices to McMaster is somehow a good idea for public transit? I also don't buy the argument that the group of tuition paying students that don't use transit is so small that it makes up for the $520.00 difference that it costs a public citizen to use transit for the same period of time?

McMaster knows it has a sweet deal and now it's costing other users more money. People who aren't lucky enough to go to school or have parents to depend on. I think this is grossly unfair and should be addressed.

Dare I use the term "entitlement brats"? Because that's what this smells like.

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By balance (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 16:29:47

I can't comment on the Mac issue, but Thom's central argument is bang on. Off the top of my head, I would think that the price of a monthly transit pass should reflect the cost of, oh, 17 return trips using tickets. That way I'd have a clear incentive to purchase a pass.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 18:27:41

I'm going to Mac soon, and paying for it myself. So i'd ask you to stop assuming everyone that goes to Mac is a spoiled brat. The vast majority of University students work hard to pay for it, and take out huge loans to help. I don't know if you went to University, but put yourself in the place of a student there. You're paying money out of your rear for tuition, supplementary fees, and residence. Most Students only have part time jobs so they can still have time for their studies. These jobs pay about $10 an hour. At 79$ a month it would take 95 hours or so to pay for transit costs. This is several weeks of work for a student. Do the math, Students can't afford 79$ a month for bus passes.

Secondly, it's not like Mac students get world class transit. The buses are packed like sardines.

Even worse are Bus Routes that serve High School Routes.

It's because all the money subsidizes riders out in the suburbs.

The suburbs pay almost nothing in transit tax, get service better than parts of Hamilton, and pay only the same fare.

If you want to look into where the money is going, it's going out to the suburbs, not to a bunch of students that are burying themselves in debt to try and make a better life for themselves.

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By Don McLean (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2008 at 22:06:21

I agree with Thom that HSR fares are too high and the recent steep hikes were over the top. But there is a perverse logic in the differential in pricing between passes and tickets. If you use a pass, you can claim the 15.5 percent federal tax rebate for transit passes. If you buy tickets you can't. And here's the perversity.

City councillors have screamed long and loud at the ugly fact that the Ontario government claws back the National Child Benefits provided to low-income families by the Canadian government. Councillors have quite rightly condemned this practice, and to their credit, they have taken the 20 percent of that clawback that Ontario gives to Hamilton and are using it to directly support low-income families - as the federal government intended.

But on transit passes, the shoe is on the other foot. The city is clawing back the federal transit tax rebate. If you just take the adult pass hikes over the last year, as Thom notes they went from $65 to $79 a month - a $14 a month hike. Even at the new price, the federal tax rebate is only $12.25. So the city has clawed back the entire amount. Someone should tell Stephen Harper that one of the only good things he's done is being completely undermined by Hamilton city council.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 19, 2008 at 23:46:07

Al Rathbone: I think your math is rather one-sided and however correct 95 hours over the course of a school year is about equal to a very short credit. I also think it's unsympathetic to those people who are not going to university or more particularly not going to McMaster. Mohawk, Liasson and Columbia college students all pay full fare. Let's not even bring elementary and secondary school kids into the equation whom have NO income and depend on their parents. They also have no special discount.

The fact of the matter is that McMaster gets special treatment and everyone else using the PUBLIC transit system gets an increase in fare. It's also laughable that students, with easy access to credit in both consumer and OSAP form are crying poverty when those people in ACTUAL poverty are getting an increase to their already much higher transit costs. How about expecting students to invest in their own education by expecting them, like any other citizen, to pay their own transit costs? But instead we'll subsidize you out of the fare box, those of us who are employed and many in Hamilton who are living in poverty. And these are not the actions of spoilt brats?

Explain that one to me.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 19, 2008 at 23:52:15

Also the argument that the quality of service by the HSR for students is poor is also pitiful. Given that students are not paying a fair fare, if you will, how do you expect transit improvements to be made? Additionally all the articulated hybrid buses on the 10 Beeline rout are servicing McMaster! So again we have tax dollars going to the university rather than servicing populations that are in need of transit. Populations that are PAYING MORE THAN STUDENTS. Heaven forbid we run that service on Barton where similar demands are made on the rout. But Barton is for poor people! Please note my sarcasm.

This expectation is unrealistic and the typical unthinking bourgeois assumption made by undergrads who've lived entirely with their parents until this point in their life.

Let's keep the fare fair for everyone and see if we need to keep this inane pricing structure that subjugates the working poor.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted January 20, 2008 at 07:31:20

Wow, brodiec, might want to get some therapy to get that log off your shoulder.

Fair or not, if Mac's evil bus subsidization program were scrapped, it would change road traffic and student housing locations significantly.

One bus, 60 students equals 50 cars with 1.2 students (avg. occupancy). Try to visualize the difference on Westdale streets.

Without cheap transit, students would be much less inclined to live on the main/king corridor and downtown, making those areas that critically need revitalization take a step back.

Westdale would become more of a student ghetto than it already is.

Neither would be a huge effect, but they would be noticed.

I don't like unfairness either, but let's be practical, not ideologically misguided.

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By Rider (registered) | Posted January 20, 2008 at 12:51:08

Let me tell you the Hamilton subsidy is folly. It can't possibly keep up with the demand because it is available to ALL students. I think we should subsidize students but let deadbeats like McLean who lives in the suburbs and uses the bus pay what he can afford and he can afford more than the measly sum Hamilton is charging him and others like him.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 20, 2008 at 13:59:49

brodie, you are missing the point with the Mac pass. all of your statements are made under the assumption that each student who pays for the pass uses it pretty much daily.

The real truth is that most students walk or cycle. Many drive, and some use the bus regularly. The Mac "subsidy" is not coming from the HSR: it's flowing from the students who don't ride to those who do. In fact there's a never ending "movement" on campus to eliminate the pass, mostly pushed by those students who can't or don't take HSR being angry that they are subsidizing those who do. I am sure they have done their math to make sure that McMaster is not a leech on the HSR system.

Before you get so angry, you might want to do some research about what percentage of students actually use the pass. By your math, if the student usage is less than 15% then the HSR is making money -- a true possibility.

The bottom line is that your assumption of a 441 dollar subsidy to each student is flat out wrong. You need to incorporate the important ratio of # trips students actually take : # trips students are entitled to.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted January 20, 2008 at 15:43:31

And as far as bad service:

1) you try taking the bus from Mac
2) I was also talking about routes servicing High Schools such as the 41 Mohawk which is DANGEROUSLY *I Stress this as much as I can* overcrowded and often you still despite this overcrowding have to wait 2-3 buses to pass before one can attempt to cram you in. And as far as High Schools go you can't even use the "drastic subsidy" argument because High School students get only a small discount.
3)Transit service in Hamilton is shit wherever you go, although the burbs have better service than they pay for, so get used to it.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 20, 2008 at 23:03:16

I think there is a lack of facts to back up the claims that McMaster students are a boon to the public transit system. And the arguments for this subsidy (it is a per-user subsidy) and segregation of fares are a bit weak. I will rebut all your arguments including the environmental and economic in saying this: why, with a public system that is strapped for cash, is a special subsidy given? Anyone can claim that access to affordable transit is good for the environment, economic development and just generally convenient. Why does paying tuition at McMaster make you more special than any other student or public citizen?

Economically it is irrefutable that even if 100% of McMaster students were taking the bus every day that the HSR will make less money. It is in fact a dis-incentive for more McMaster students to take transit because the HSR begins making less and less money from the flat-rate tuition based system. If you read the documents relating to the fare increase the problem is rider-ship. Public transit in Ontario largely works out of the fare box. It's actually a stark contrast to the USA where the NYC Subway, for instance, is largely federally funded. It's some sort of strange bizzaro world here when it comes to public transit.

The McMaster tuition flat-rate is not in the interest of keeping the HSR running and improving service. It actually demands that less students take transit for the service to have the funds to operate and improve. It's economic idiocy! Hello DeGroote School of Business! Tell me how this makes sense, I'd love to know!

As a counter-example I'll use the TTC in Toronto, which for the record has a subway but also quality of service issues along it's ALRT corridors frequented by UofT students like the Queen and College cars. The TTC discounts bulk purchases of passes based on the demand of the institution. That means that the more Ryerson, UofT, OCAD or George Brown students that use transit the more the collective group saves. This gives an economic incentive for students to choose to use transit and be advocates of transit. Rather than the McMaster hand-out which is kinda indefensible economically because it has no data relating to actual rider-ship! All we know is that the routes servicing the university are crowded and the people using them are paying less per-rider than the people not attending that school. Therefore people paying out of the fare-box are subsidizing clearly required service improvements. This is barring provincial or federal grants which these days are largely for vehicles and infrastructure NOT operational costs. See the gas tax as an example. That's how they do business in Queens Park and Ottawa these days. And it makes sense.

As for my personal use of routes servicing McMaster? Well, I grew up in the west end and have used the HSR all through middle school and high school on the 5C. Ironically even without the discounted pass those busses were still packed. Showing that the HSR could increase full price rider ship and keep the fare standard for all Hamiltonians.

And I'd like to retract my spoilt brat comments, they were uncalled for. But I still think there is a strong argument here for fare standardization. The HSR is for Hamiltonians not McMaster students. Would the reactions of McMaster students be the same if only Catholic school board students received the same deal? Why is a standard fare for all HSR riders so unfair? Cast off your partisan double-think here for a moment Mac'ers and use those big brains!

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted January 20, 2008 at 23:35:32

As for area-rating, I agree with the sentiments expressed however would like to nuance them a bit. The first and most important point is that any public transit system has a mandate to service all residents regardless of their contribution to the tax base. An example I'd use is people with no income such as young people, students or those with disabilities. Regardless of where they live and that areas density they do not pay property taxes and therefore should get no service, right? Wrong. By that logic we should not service McMaster or any school that educates young people because those riders generally don't make a large enough income or have enough property to pay taxes.

Area rating, as implemented in Hamilton, doesn't make sense because it severely under-charges the suburbs while still providing service. However charging a flat-rate works under the assumption that sprawl never happens, that everyone pays taxes and that we could afford to provide a great quality of service via public or mass transit to the areas of low density. The problem is that as density decreases the cost of providing transit increases, yes we know this, but the demographic of people using transit in those places is unknown. It's a tad jejune and highly elitist to assume that we can expect everyone to pay equally into a system that will not service people equally.

It's more fair to insist on better city planning to prevent the cost of transit from being too high for the fare-box or tax base to afford. That's the disaster in Hamilton more particularly. And it's unfair to approach residents for the same rate that you'd pay in a highly serviced area with density as you would, say on the peripheral nodes of the HSR service area. To flat-rate the service overall because people should know better than to buy homes in the suburbs is elitist, smug and ignorant of the different socio-economic concerns of citizens. Rather than a correct and fair area rating system based on the cost of providing service and improving it.

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By rgelder (registered) - website | Posted January 21, 2008 at 11:23:48

The only point I would contribute to what has already been said (and I bike 5 miles to work from Dundas to downtown Hamilton every day - through the Mac campus (hee-hee)- winter days included), is that passes ought to cost less than the equivalent in tickets from an efficiency perspective.

More passes, means less printing and selling of tickets, not to mention the lessened cost of processing all that change. The HSR ought to be "subsidizing" the cost of its monthly passes in its own administrative self-interest.

I keep a couple of bus tickets in my wallet for days where snow/ice makes cycling to work dangerous. I'm not riding the HSR nearly enough to warrant purchasing a monthly pass in any event.

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By ventrems (registered) | Posted January 23, 2008 at 10:23:37

I seem to be coming late to the debate, but I really want to stress a point that some individuals have made, but other individuals do not seem to understand. As a Mac student (into my 6th year now... no, not two victory laps, but I made the brilliant choice to go to grad school), I feel like I have a duty to comment.

The Mac bus pass (U-Pass) is available to students at a huge discount, this is true. However, there is no provision to 'opt-out' which means everyone pays: all 20,000 of us, regardless of use.

Do all Mac students use the pass? Hardly. First year students living in residence will almost never use the pass, yet pay for it anyway. That is a substantial profit for the HSR based on delivering almost no service.

Also, most students living in the infamous Westdale neighbourhood will walk to campus. Same goes for Ainsliewood on the other side. Many McMaster students live in these neighbourhoods, and as such, will seldom make use of the pass.

Graduate students are more likely to live Downtown or other areas of the city. We pay more for the pass (around $100). We are indeed getting subsidized, but we are also living below the poverty line, and doing research that will almost definitely save the planet & all of your asses one day. You can cut us some slack ;)

So, despite the fact that the pass is offered to Mac students at an insane discount relative to other users, the net effect of the U-Pass is surely a benefit to the HSR and the City. Yet, the bus pass is controversial at Mac, and its existence is perpetually debated. I would not want to be an HSR user on the day that Mac students vote down the U-Pass program.

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By mainwestvillage (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2008 at 12:16:51

I'd like to add - I've taken the bus from McMaster and the amount of students who live in Westdale and use it to go from campus to let's say the Barn or Westdale proper is pretty disturbing to say the least. So to say that students living near campus aren't using the pass is laughable because they aren't walking that short distance. How about a shuttle from campus to Westdale Village?

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By ventrems (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 12:22:28

I commute every day, and I can assure you that the 'disturbing' number of Mac students you've seen taking the bus from Westdale does not compare to the many hundreds that choose to walk instead. Next time you're on that bus, look out the window.

The King Street busses are usually packed well before they even get to Westdale, as they are after they pass through Westdale on the way back downtown.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 24, 2008 at 12:33:29

brodie you are missing the point: you cannot treat these passes as subsidies like that. That only works if every mac pass holder commutes at the same level as an average joe passholder. Average joe passholders will only buy a pass if they need to take two trips per working day at a minimum. The average usage of mac students is well below that level. SO yes, theya re paying a lot less than joe... but they are using substantially less as well.

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By Alex Patterson (anonymous) | Posted January 25, 2008 at 09:21:07

The reasons for the McMaster pass go a lot farther than the demands of "spoiled brat" (and yes, I take offense) students, who aren't, in any case, the program's biggest defenders. The last campus referendum on the matter didn't show too well, for reasons others have articulated.

The issue is housing. The student-slum situation in Westdale and Ainsliewood at the moment is nothing compared to what it would be if students didn't have bus passes, and same goes for traffic. And then there are the benefits to rental housing in downtown and beyond. Students in that context make great sense, because they are a rather reliable source of income for landlords, but aren't capable of paying the exorbitant rates which would otherwise lead to gentrification.

Anyone who thinks students are getting a free ride should check tuition rates - it's not like we haven't faced a gigantic claw-back as well. Education today is kinda like an (economic) suicide cult, with little other than the promise of prosperity after financial death keeping many of us going. These kids don't need car loans too.

And as for the 10/1A/5C service route, yes it's crowded (for the 3-4 buses immediately before a class starts, not so much the rest of the time), but what other route in Hamilton has buses showing up at 5-minute intervals at peak times? I actually wasn't able to get on one of the articulated beelines the other day from crowding (though getting people to completely move to the back is more often the issue), and wasn't able to catch the 5C that was also loading at the time, so was forced to wait 2 whole minutes for the 51 which then came ,and guess what, I got a seat. As someone who used to take the Aberdeen daily (20-40 minutes if you miss it), I'm more than willing to stand if it means I'll get there on time.

The U-Pass system should be expanded, not scrapped - to Mohawk and Columbia, and to any workplace that's willing to finance similar service upgrades. Why, in an age of declining riderships, are we seeking to shut down one of the few successful programs which is still packing buses? It doesn't take much, in the way of pocket change, to deter riders, if only for lack of correct pocket change. I almost never took the bus when it was $2.10, and would be even more loathe to do so now, but when it's "free" (pre-paid), it becomes really bloody convenient, and I take transit regularly (also cycling and walking, though). Why the fuck aren't we learning from this and tr
ying to implement it elsewhere in the city?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 30, 2008 at 14:01:03

Thank you alex.

How about this... companies charge everyone a "transportation charge" and you can choose to either take a free parking spot OR receive a free bus pass.

I agree these kinds of pseudo-subsidized prepaid pass concepts need to be expanded not contracted.

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By J (registered) | Posted January 30, 2008 at 15:57:29

@ Brodie As a McMaster Graduate turned Hamiltonian, I owe a large part of my love for this city to that bus pass. It allowed me to discover a city that would have been very much out of reach from the somewhat remote Mac campus. This city is in rough shape. It's getting a bit better with every passing day, but it's by no means the great city it could be. McMaster generates the types of great minds that this city needs in order to thrive, and keeping these minds in the city after they finish their education is challenge enough without people like you telling people like me that Mac students aren't Hamiltonians. The bus pass was and is a major attraction for potential students, and a great way to expose them to the potentially amazing city of Hamilton. In terms of the economic value to the HSR, their total expected funding from fares in 2007 was about $30 Million (see the 2007 State of the Infrastructure Report on the city website), while Mac students contributed about $1.5-1.7 Million last year (assuming grad students pay $100 for their passes). That works out to at least 5% of the HSR's 2007 fare revenues being provided by McMaster University. That sounds like a good deal for the city. If you consider costs of a more concentrated student ghetto, increased personal vehicle traffic, and fewer students living in the downtown core, it's a downright steal of a deal for the city.

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By volterwd (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2008 at 23:47:48

Wow there seems to be petty hate for mac students. First off... people who pay with tickets or passes are not subsidizing shit. By the way that includes myself. Public transit is subsidized by taxes... it has not been break even ever as far as I know. So at best its subsidizing mac students more.

That said MOST mac students do not use the pass all that frequently, so comparing the cost of a single pass to the equivalent cost of buying montly passes is absurd.

As well the arguments here seem to be much like the arguments of the RIAA against downloading of music. If they had to buy monthly passes most wouldn't plain and simple. There is no lost revenue.

As well money is only lost when routes are added for people who pay less than the cost of upkeep. Packing 15 mac students on a bus that has 10 non-mac students but going to mac costs essentially the same as if the mac students werent there. (the only difference is the gas due to marginal increase in weight, potential yet on average negligable lost fares due to crowding, and administration costs of the program which overall are puny).

Here is some reality for you. Public transit SHOULD be subsidized. If anything we should make people who live far outside of downtown pay more because it's the sparsely populated areas that cost a lot to service.

Anyways getting any mac students to use the bus is good because they will be forming a habit of using public transit instead of buying a car which I think we can all agree we don't need more of.

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By transitory (anonymous) | Posted February 04, 2008 at 09:26:01

Student rate will jump almost 28% next year. From today's Spec:

"An annual pass will cost students $94.80 next year and increase to $110.60 by 2010. The three-year phase-in will bring the annual cost to 140 per cent of an adult monthly pass for city transit. The price is among the lowest in the country."

Etc: tinyurl.com/3754qu

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By jaw (anonymous) | Posted February 04, 2008 at 14:26:09

Cost of Mac bus passes to go up next year
February 04, 2008
The Hamilton Spectator

The city is looking to up the cost of bus passes for McMaster students -- but not as high as it would like.

An annual pass will cost students $94.80 next year and increase to $110.60 by 2010. The three-year phase-in will bring the annual cost to 140 per cent of an adult monthly pass for city transit. The price is among the lowest in the country.

A report heading to councillors today states staff wanted a higher increase, but that the university's student's union cautioned it might lead students to reject the transit program in a referendum. Staff endorse the lower increase as a compromise that students can support and helps the city recoup more costs.

Students currently pay $71.50 for the academic year -- in total they take about 2.5 million trips a year. The city generates $1.7 million a year from its university and college bus pass program.

Across Canada the average fee for similar student transit programs is $110 to $130.

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted February 12, 2008 at 16:04:19

I think my overall point here is that the U-Pass is a) inordinately cheap b) unaccountable. We don't know how many students use the HSR, at what frequency and on what routes. We do know however that the routes students use (5, 51, 1A, 10) are the most serviced and the busiest. So it can be assumed (however not reliably) that if students contribute even 6% of total farebox revenue they are probably receiving more than that in overall service.

I just find it a gross injustice that routes like Cannon and Barton have no hybrid diesel articulated busses, similar ridership and pay orders of magnitude more for their service on an individual basis.

Regarding the red herring argument that the housing situation as per McMaster is the responsibility of the city, it's tax payers and citizens. Let me remind you for a moment, Alex in particular, that McMaster is a for profit business that is also subsidized by people who make money and pay taxes. As somebody from a family who originally built on Ewen Rd in the 1940s and still resides in the Ainsleywood area I would say the situation is indeed worse. And has always been the perogative of students to defer the problems they create both for the tax base and associated infrastructure to the very citizens they are depending on to fund the programs they need.

I would ask you, at the end of the day, where does the money come from? My suggestion that we all pay fairly for public transit... why is that so offensive? Fact of the matter is that if 6% of the revenue has incentive to use transit and the remaing 94% has less with every fare increase are we getting ahead? How does that work? Let's discount based on volume of riders such that the farebox feeds into the funding apporpiately to maintain and improve service. Rather than another "students need help!" argument without much to back it up. Everyone needs help, have you looked around this city? I know most of you have. Let's share our special priviledges.

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By Mike B (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2008 at 21:07:46

By offering a discounted transit pass to Mac students, you are actually making an investment in transit, by getting these students use to transit. This means they may delay buying a car, or keep transit a part of their life, once they are out of school.

The future of transit is getting the kids now onto it and use to taking it more often then their parents did, etc.

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